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The lineup for the 2015 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival—you know it simply as Coachella—was released today, and it turns out some of the speculation was true: Goldenvoice has made AC/DC, Jack White and Drake this year’s headliners.

Of course, opinions on the lineup vary; much of the criticism focuses on Drake being listed as one of the three headliners. Also, many are scratching people their heads and muttering: Steely Dan is part of the lineup? Really?

Steely Dan jokes aside, AC/DC is undeniably a strange, yet compelling addition for Coachella. The classic rock band from Down Under is certainly worthy of headlining honors, but it’s hard to imagine enthusiasm from fans who attend the festival for its large offerings of indie rock and EDM. Also, the timing is unfortunate: Longtime rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young was recently admitted to a nursing home due to dementia, and drummer Phil Rudd’s future with the band is in question after his arrest in November on charges involving drugs and making a threat to kill.

Beyond the headliners, I tried to see the lineup’s silver linings—and I found many. Psychedelic rock group Tame Impala is just about to release a highly anticipated new album; the band played the festival in 2013, and a large crowd turned up to see them both weekends. Other notable acts include Flying Lotus, The War on Drugs, Florence and the Machine, The Gaslamp Killer, Bad Religion, Father John Misty, Bad Religion, OFF!, Jenny Lewis and Tyler, the Creator, to name a few.

There’s at least one compelling local angle: Former Kyuss drummer Brant Bjork will be playing with his the Low Desert Punk Band. The successful Los Angeles band Chicano Batman will also be appearing.

Coachella 2015 takes place Friday through Sunday, April 10-12 and 17-19. Passes go on sale at noon, Wednesday, Jan. 7, at www.coachella.com.

Friday, April 11, was the first day ever that craft beer was offered at the innovative, critically acclaimed, two-weekend event known as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Nic Adler—of the L.A. Vegan Beer and Food Fest, as well as The Roxy—was recruited to develop a tantalizing, foodie paradise within the festival foregrounds. Adler enlisted friend and craft-beer advocate Tony Yanow—of Golden Road and Tony’s Darts Away—to help assemble the craft-beer list.

The result: A fantastic 130 or so beers on tap, many hailing from the Golden State, that proved brews and bands make perfect music together.

Yes, Heineken is still the top sponsor and rocked the festival with surprise artists and mash-ups in the Heineken House. But in Coachella’s 15th year, the genre-bending festival joined the craft beer revolution by serving a savory selection of craft brews in what became known as the Craft Beer Barn.

Located in the marketplace area, the barn supplied music-lovers with some of the biggest names in craft beer—and some surprising cameos as well.

Here are some recommended beer-and-music pairings I came up with at Coachella.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Rooted in gritty rock ’n’ roll, the band draws influences from punk, psychedelic blues, garage rock, rockabilly, soul and R&B. After being founded in 1991, Spencer and co. have helped lead the way in American roots music. With a palm-tree backdrop, the band offered no laser shows at Coachella, but the cover of Beastie Boys’ “She’s On It” was fantastically down and dirty—and a little greasy, too. Pair with Stone/Kyle Hollingsworth/Keri Kelli Collective Distortion IPA: Stone Brewing has made its name with bold, aggressively hoppy and arrogant beers. Thundering in around 9.2 percent alcohol by volume, this hop face-punch is backed by Nugget, Comet and Calypso hops, and then dry hopped with Vic’s Secret, a new Australian hop, cranking up the citrus notes with wild abandon. Stone traced the roots of brewing to the days when Old World herbs were used to spice beers; the brewery added coriander and elderberries here. The lightly roasted golden oats balance the spicy citrus notes in this visceral, cranked-out IPA. Next time you’re looking for a strong and aggressive beer, just ask yourself: “Do you wanna get heavy?”

Aloe Blacc killed it in the Mojave tent. With his crisp white shirt, sharp gray vest and fedora, the Orange County native and USC graduate exuded positivity and rays of California sunshine. He’s been compared to John Coltrane; his horn players danced in unison to “Soldier in the City.” The beats lifted the crowd’s spirits, while the lyrics revealed social awareness. For Blacc, “It ain’t that hard when you got soul.” Pair with The Bruery, Loakal Red: This American red ale has a ton of soul. It’s oak-aged with citrus and floral notes. This beer pays tribute to the growing Orange County beer scene; a portion of the older batch was left to mature in new American oak barrels, and was then blended with the fresh dry-hopped batch. There’s a sugary sweetness and funky, vibrant notes. Tastes of grapefruit, caramel, orange zest, toffee and light pine result in a full body and solid balance. Like Blacc’s voice, the texture is silky and downright delightful.

Fishbone: This legendary good-time ska, reggae, punk, metal, funk and soul fusion band out of Los Angeles didn’t disappoint fans with its indefinable energy and talent. On the second Coachella weekend, the band rocked the main stage with earnest fierceness. Angelo Moore bounced around onstage, pumping up early-afternoon Coachella-goers for another amazing day in the desert sun. The band wowed with complex arrangements featuring instruments including the theremin, saxophone, trumpet and keyboard, inspiring uncontrollable and joyous head-banging. Pair with: Drake’s Denogginizer—DIPA: Like Fishbone’s life performances, Denogginizer has been known to blow a few minds. The hoppy, in-your-face double imperial pale ale features a crazy amount of pungent American hops. This somewhat experimental, high-alcohol brew (9.75 ABV) can’t be contained and will leave you wanting more. Or, pair with Golden Road Brewing 329 Lager: Like Fishbone, Golden Road is quintessentially Los Angeles—and it’s low enough in alcohol (4.8 percent ABV) that you can drink it all day. On a more personal note, Flying Jay, Fishbone’s trombonist, said that many of his favorite beers are lighter in flavor; personal favorites are Hoegaarden and Leffe. When asked what his favorites were, Angelo Moore, the ultimate “Fishbone Solder,” quickly snipped: “I like Guinness, because it’s dark; it’s heavy; and it’s in your face.”

Beck is simply one of the best performers I’ve ever seen. Before playing a cover of Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies),” Beck told a story about how he waited in a rainy line for 45 minutes to see them perform at a bar—the same bar where he’d seen The Black Keys a year earlier. “You know, that little bar down the street sometimes has the best music. Don’t forget about that little bar.” After “Devil’s Haircut” and “Loser,” the band rearranged “Think I’m in Love.” The crowd erupted in dance with his cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” He even joined Arcade Fire onstage to cover Prince’s “Controversy.” Pair with: Faction Brewing, 2 Hop Collab (Nelson/Galaxy): Faction is a brewery out of Alameda that likes to do things a little differently. This is a special beer brewed as part of the experimental and educational “2 Hop Collaboration Project.” Various California breweries have participated, including Alpine, Ballast Point, Beachwood, Berryessa, Drake’s, Faction, Kern, Moylan’s, Stone and Triple Rock. Each participating brewery used the same pilsner malt backbone and then added two hops of their choosing. The Nelson Sauvin hop is named after the sauvignon blanc grape and is grown in New Zealand. Considered by some as “extreme,” it’s one of the world’s most unique and delicious hops. It leans toward tropical notes such as passion fruit, mango and tangerine. Similarly tropical, Galaxy has rapidly become the most internationally recognized Australian hop. Thanks to notes of passion fruit and citrus and a high alpha acid level, this versatile hop is great as a late addition in the brewing process. Beck is no stranger to experimental projects, like the “Song Reader” project, so this cornucopia of awesomeness is a Beck-appropriate craft-beer project.

Arcade Fire: Win Butler started by introducing two special guests in disheveled robot masks as a slightly inferior version of “Get Lucky” began to play. After the prank, the band turned in a set that may have been one of the most passionate and searing in Coachella history. Butler talked about gay human rights and urged people to get behind a cause. The multi-instrumentalist band played “Reflektor,” showing romantic deep grooves and grandiose rhythms. Pair with Blazing World, Modern Times: The relatively new San Diego brewery Modern Times is making waves with complex, flavorful, hybrid styles. The brewery was named one of the "Top 10 New Breweries” in the world by RateBeer. Blazing World has a ton of hop character and makes a presence with bursts of pine, citrus and grapefruit flavors. This effervescent brew has a fantastic complexity, but still remains well-balanced with a malt backbone. This could be confused for an IPA, but has definite amber characteristics. The use of Nelson, Simcoe and Mosaic hops play together beautifully.

As with Arcade Fire, this beer offers something for everyone.  

Published in Beer

The band CIVX has come a long way since three of the members broke from PSSSTOLS to form their own group late last year.

Nick Hernandez (bass), Joel Guerrero (drums), Dillon Dominguez (guitar) and Sal Gutierrez (guitar) were chosen to play at Tachevah, a Palm Springs Block Party, this past Wednesday, April 16—and shocked those in attendance when they announced they would be playing at Coachella on Sunday, April 20.

One thing is for sure: They looked like they belonged on the Coachella stage.

At 11:25 a.m., CIVX took the Mojave tent stage. The hard-core fans of the Cathedral City band were on hand to witness it, including Guerrero’s girlfriend, Aurora Jimenez. Ross Murakami, of The Yip Yops, who played with CIVX at Tachevah, was also on hand. The band had a decent-sized crowd, considering the doors had just opened, and fans were trickling in the festival grounds.

At Coachella, Hernandez said he and his bandmates were shocked when they learned shortly before their Tachevah performance that they would be playing at Coachella.

“We’re a new band,” Hernandez said. “We’ve only been together for about four months. It’s just really a shock. It’s definitely a learning experience, and it gets us motivated. We just want to work harder now to achieve our goals.”

Gutierrez agreed. “We’re ready to work hard,” he said.

Dominguez reflected on what it meant to be added to the Coachella lineup.

“When I’ve seen the other talent out here, it’s inspiring,” Dominguez said. “It makes you want to fill up your sound and make it more crisp. It’s exciting that somebody saw enough in us to want us to play here already, and they can see that potential in us. We want to expand on that for sure.”

When it came to the subject of PSSSTOLS, Guerrero explained what led to him leaving the group, along with Hernandez and Gutierrez.

“It was all about differences,” Guerrero said. “The chemistry wasn’t really there in the end. We wanted to do different things. We just kind of knew it wasn’t going to last very long. It just died out in the band, and we decided to call it quits back in September. We kept it on the down low and didn’t want to really say anything.”

During the performance in the Mojave tent, attendees could literally feel Hernandez’s bass: The ground near the stage was vibrating. His vocals were excellent, even though he said he had not been feeling well throughout the week and had some concerns about performing.

The band can now say it’s had an experience that most bands can only dream of.

“It was surreal, and it was one of the beautiful things I’ve ever experienced,” Dominguez said.

Hernandez said it was awesome simply to be on a Coachella stage. “Once you’re on there, you just want more of it. It’s fun; you have a good time doing it; and it feels good. That’s why we’re musicians.”

Guerrero said the band members are in awe at the month they’ve had.

“We started playing in local venues here, and then all of a sudden, we’re at Tachevah,” Guerrero said. “We didn’t even think we’d get in the Top 10, and then Tachevah was our first big stage where we performed. From there to Coachella? It’s such a big jump from local venues to such a big venue.”

I had to ask Gutierrez a follow-up question based on an interview I did with PSSSTOLS last year: Does he still have a love for “space wine”—the bag from boxed wine, sans the box?

“No, I’m slowing down on the space wine,” Gutierrez said with a laugh. “I haven’t had any in a while.” 

Coachella Day 3 started off on a much hotter note—but that did not diminish the excitement of festival-goers. After all, this was the last day of the festival, so it was time to savor every moment.

Early in the afternoon, the Mojave tent hosted the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans. At the same time, Trombone Shorty was playing on the Main stage, so it sounded like New Orleans at Mardi Gras.

As Trombone Shorty finished up, it was time for Fishbone. The band started off a high-energy set with “Party at Ground Zero”—and when the song picked up, so did the mosh pit. The band then broke into “Fat Chicks/Bustin’ Loose.” The funk/punk/reggae/ska legends have never received the respect they’ve deserved, but they had some big-name fans on this day: Later in the set, Andre 3000 and Big Boi from Outkast showed up in the VIP aisle to catch the band. During “Everyday Sunshine,” Angelo Moore hopped over the barrier to go crowd surfing. Fishbone ended the set with “Sunless Saturday.”

During Fishbone’s set, the Coachella app notified attendees that Chance the Rapper—scheduled for the Main stage after Fishbone—would not be performing. Attendees passed the news to each other, though many fans seemed clueless as they gathered.

The 1975, one of the more anticipated up-and-coming acts, performed on the Outdoor stage late in the afternoon, right as Zoe was scheduled to go on the Main stage. The 1975’s sound seemed straight out of the 1980s at times, with a little bit of modern pop thrown in. While some songs were catchy, others were downright cheesy—even featuring Kenny G-style saxophones.

One highlight of the afternoon/early evening, despite the heat, was the performance by Superchunk in the Gobi tent. The indie-rock band from the era of Fugazi and the Pixies put on an electrifying performance, proving the members can still perform with the best of them.

As the sun was going down, the reunited Neutral Milk Hotel took the Outdoor stage. Frontman Jeff Mangum came out and played a song by himself before he was joined by the rest of band. He has become notorious for asking people not to photograph him, and when he made the request on Sunday for attendees to put their cell phones and cameras away, there were some cheers—but some took photos anyway. Some of the songs were great, but the vibe was ruined whenever the band would leave the stage for Mangum to play solo. While some attendees people were into it, I found it was time to move on to something more lively: The Toy Dolls in the Gobi.

The English punk-rock band is known for their humorous shows, and The Toy Dolls were indeed a sight to see. Guitarist Michael Algar and bassist Tom Blyth would strut in opposite directions while playing; Blyth at one point suffered through some technical issues with his bass. Algar joked, “Sorry, we’re English.” The mixture of confetti, funny sunglasses and humor along with the Oi! punk led even some of the hipsters in the Gobi to get down with it.

As Lana Del Rey was finishing her set on the Outdoor stage, Beck took the Main stage. He opened with a rocking performance of “Blue Moon,” and then followed with “Loser,” his breakout single from 1993.

When Motörhead took the stage in the Mojave (shortly before Arcade Fire took the Main stage), it was clear that frontman Lemmy Kilmister is, in some ways, not the same. He’s always been a Jack Daniels-drinking, Marlboro-smoking ironman who would tell you, “Don’t do heroin; do speed instead.” He’s recently been battling just to stay alive, having a pacemaker installed and trying to get his diabetes under control; it was amazing he was even able to get onstage. However, when he did, he proved that he remains the same in one way: He rocked! “We are Motörhead, and we play rock ’n’ roll,” he said before the band tore into the opening song, “Damage Case.” Their performances of “Over the Top” and “Rock It” were top-notch and proved that while Lemmy might be old, he’s still “God” as far as his fans go. At the end of the set, a huge circle pit started on the left side of the stage as special guest Slash joined the boys for “Ace of Spades,” and the finishing number, “Overkill.”

It was difficult to adjust to Arcade Fire after experiencing Motörhead. When Motörhead finished, Arcade Fire was already about five songs into the set; “The Suburbs” was playing as I approached the Main stage. After “Reflektor,” the group performed a cover of Prince’s “Controversy” with Beck, and the group finished with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band joining them for “Wake Up.”

Arcade Fire, in a way, got a big boost from Coachella in 2005. Win Butler talked about how back then, the band’s manager was also their road crew, and all their equipment was stored in sleeping bags or cardboard boxes. Now, they are headliners.

Who knows which up-and-coming bands that played in the smaller tents and in earlier time slots at Coachella 2014 will one day headline the festival? Stay tuned to find out.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery. Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Reviews

Coachella Day 2 is always the festival’s busiest—and that was evident on Saturday, April 19, as people came to enjoy numerous up-and-coming artists, in addition to the big headliners.

Early in the afternoon, Laura Mvula took the Gobi stage. I was in the nearby press tent, and the drum beat coming from the Gobi stage captivated me to the point where I had to get up and see what was going on. Mvula’s drummer turned out a unique set of beats throughout the entire set, while Mvula’s stunning soul-style vocals resonated through the whole tent. People were dancing and grooving, with some simply amazed by her performance. Meanwhile, a man in a marching-band outfit stomped through the crowd as people took photos of him.

Speaking of soul, The Internet (yes, that’s what they’re called) followed Laura Mvula. Fronted by a woman named Syd Bennett (aka Syd tha Kyd), the neo-soul band immediately captivated the audience with smooth bass lines, jazz piano and some chill vibes similar to those of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. Bennett knows how to entertain and sing deep songs without weird spiritual elements or outrageous costumes: She was wearing a Beach Bum swimsuit, a T-shirt and colored socks with marijuana leaves on them.

As I made my way to the Outdoor stage to see Ty Segall, I noticed that Cage the Elephant had a much smaller audience than the band should have had. The group managed to capture the mainstream with the single “Shake Me Down” a few years back; apparently, the band did not act fast enough to put out compelling new material after that. The band put on a great show; it’s just that the crowds were scattered elsewhere.

As for Ty Segall, he and his band were given an intro by a surprise guest: flop-comedian Neil Hamburger (who will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s in May; look for an interview with him soon in the Independent). The dry-comedy maestro delivered jokes about Skrillex, Arcade Fire, Fred Durst, his nemesis Carrot Top, and Britney Spears before introducing “Ty and the Boys.”

Ty Segall’s much-publicized love for Hawkwind was evident throughout his performance. His first two songs were loud and heavy psychedelic. During the third song, a tall, shirtless skinny guy managed to start a mosh pit. A man with an inflatable pink dolphin was in the pit the entire time, holding up the dolphin; he even went crowd-surfing a few times. Half-full bottles of water were thrown into the pit, as was a quarter of a watermelon. Segall ended his set with a cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love.”

The Head and the Heart took the Outdoor stage as the afternoon transitioned into evening. The folk-rock band from Seattle put on a great set that makes you ask: Is rock music really dead? The band’s folk-rock sound featured beautiful harmonies and violins. Many people were dancing; a group of people even held hands and danced in a circle. The Head and the Heart proved that unique bands can captivate an audience with a mellow sound.

The ladies of Warpaint took to Mojave stage at 6:15 p.m. and turned in a stellar set. Frontwoman Theresa Wayman’s guitar puts out haunting echoes, while Emily Kokal’s synthesizer adds a dark vibe. Warpaint’s echoing vocals and a dark sound are supported nicely by the rhythm section of drummer Stella Mozgawa and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg.

The High-Energy Performance Award of the Day goes to Future Islands, who rocked out the Gobi tent as the early evening took hold. Beth Clifford, chief doorwoman at Pappy and Harriet’s, told me that the Future Islands show that took place after the Pixies show this past Thursday (April 17) was one of the best shows she’s ever experienced at Pappy’s. Frontman Gerrit Welmers was jumping all over the place as the band opened up with “Back in the Tall Grass.” At times, it sounded as if he was out of breath, but he always kept on going. The band offers a unique modern twist on new wave and synthpop, with a heavy rock sound added in. Given the fantastic stage performance and the recent album success, we should be hearing more from this band in the future. I would not be surprised to see the group back at Coachella on a much grander scale.

As the evening progressed, Fatboy Slim performed to a packed Sahara tent. (The Astronaut even made its way into the tent behind the soundboard.) Opening with “Right Here, Right Now,” Fatboy Slim never stopped, only allowing himself brief transitions that included snippets of songs including Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapvine” and Bing Crosby singing “Let It Snow.” While it certainly wasn’t Christmas, it started to snow in the Sahara tent from the ceilings.

People who wanted to sneak in to get a good spot for Skrillex’s night-closing set in the Sahara were pretty much out of luck: It remained packed, with Empire of the Sun following Fatboy Slim.

As the Fatboy Slim show wound down, The Pixies took the stage in the Mojave to similar conditions: The tent was crammed full. The Pixies proved earlier this week that the band can perform for two hours or more; it’s odd that these legends were given just a 50-minute set that was not on the Main stage.

As for the Main stage: When locals Queens of the Stone Age walked on, they delighted their die-hard fans. While the audience wasn’t as large as it was for some acts, the band still garnered a decent-sized crowd, considering the Pixies weren’t quite done yet on the Mojave, and Sleigh Bells were tearing it up on the Outdoor stage. I’d never before seen the Queens of the Stone Age live, and now I know: The experience of seeing and hearing them live cannot be fully captured on video. The band plays with some serious power, and they were ready to rock on Saturday night. The visuals in the background were stunning; one was a dark desert sky with fierce moving clouds, and a marquee with “QOTSA” front and center.

The Queens opened up with “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire”; “No One Knows” followed. Josh Homme made note of the fact that it was beginning to get late. “Darkness is upon us … and I’m already fucked up,” he told the audience, to a loud ovation. “Little Sister” and “If I Had a Tail” were played in the middle of the set, and the band only got better as the show progressed. When Homme noticed the sign-language interpreter to his left, near the video monitor, he asked, “Are you doing sign language?” The interpreter nodded as he signed; Homme then made a request to the interpreter to sign: “Let’s go fucking nuts!” When the band finished up with “Go With the Flow,” the image of seagulls flying in silhouette was the visual.

Pharrell Williams began in Outdoor theatre right as the Queens were finished—and the Outdoor area was already filled beyond capacity. I got as close as I could, and I could barely hear or see the show. He performed “Blurred Lines” with special guest T.I. Busta Rhymes, Pusha T, Usher and even Jay-Z also showed up during his set; alas, Snoop Dogg was absent this weekend when Pharrell played “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Pharrell’s stage show was obviously big enough to be on the Main stage, but was quite exciting to the people who could get close enough to enjoy it.

It was at this point that I had to call it a night: Someone tampered with my laptop in the media tent, and I needed to make sure it was functional enough to get me through Day 3. Therefore, I asked Dan Gibson, the editor of the Tucson Weekly, to take notes for me on what happened with the headliners—and I am glad he did, as I missed some interesting goings-on.

The second Pharrell’s set ended, the majority of the crowd from seemingly all stages rushed to the Sahara tent to see Skrillex. That left a half-empty tent for synth-pop legends the Pet Shop Boys. Clearly, the Pet Shop Boys show represented the 30-and-older Coachella-attendee meet-up; the band’s energetic performance included two dancers wearing giant cattle skulls at times—with Alexander McQueen outfits for the duo themselves.

The strobe-heavy lighting for the Pet Shop Boys proved to be too much for one attendee, who needed attention at the side of tent for an apparent seizure. Despite a seemingly over-long wait for medical attention, the woman was able to walk away with assistance.

Seemingly all of the headliners, including Nas and The Dismemberment Plan, ended their sets at almost the same time, meaning the rush to the parking lots and shuttles was shoulder to shoulder. In fact, the parking lot was still half-full at 2:30 a.m.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery.

Published in Reviews

Coachella’s second weekend started off on Friday, April 18, on a comfortable note: The heat was not overbearing, with temperatures generally remaining in the 80s. Not even the arrival of some ominous clouds in the afternoon would put a damper on the fun.

The Gabba Gabba Heys, a Ramones tribute band, started things off in the Gobi tent at noon. As someone who was fortunate enough to catch the very last Ramones tour during a stop in Cleveland, I can say that the Gabba Gabba Heys sound exactly like the Ramones. When they opened up with “Rockaway Beach,” a portion of the crowd in front of the stage began to mosh. Ramones tunes such as “Teenage Lobotomy,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Rock and Roll High School” and “I Wanna be Sedated” were performed with the Ramones sound intact—although visually, the Dee Dee Ramone was a little pudgier and shorter than the original, and the Joey Ramone was much better-looking.

As the members of GOAT sound-checked on the Outdoor stage, members of Flatbush Zombies, who had just performed, walked into the photo pit and chatted up attendees for a few moments. After GOAT took the stage, they proved to be just as amazing as they were at Pappy and Harriet’s earlier this month. The Coachella crowd cheered “GOAT! GOAT! GOAT!” before the band began to play. GOAT performed “Diarabi,” “Run To Your Mama” and a few other songs from their only album to date, World Music.

As for some of the Coachella art you’ve probably seen on your friends’ Facebook pages: In between performances by GOAT and the Dum Dum Girls, Anthony Green was heard on the Main stage saying, “From where I’m standing, It looks like the Robot is going to fuck the Astronaut in the ass.” From the Outdoor stage area, that assessment seemed spot-on.

When the Dum Dum Girls took the Outdoor stage, frontwoman Dee Dee Penny came out wearing a sheer outfit that revealed her breasts in their entirety, save the nipples, which were covered with black circles. They opened up with “He Gets Me High,” and followed with “I Got Nothing.” The sound of the Dum Dum Girls reminded me of the Pretenders at times, especially during “Are You Okay?” The almost-all-female band drew a crowd and put on a solid set. This is a group we’ll be hearing plenty more about in the near future.

In the mid-afternoon, dark clouds began to form over the Empire Polo Club. The wind also picked up, creating fears of a nasty storm. However, that didn’t stop attendees from having a good time.

At 4:35 p.m., the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion took the stage in the Gobi tent. The Blues Explosion never stopped in between sets, and was all over the place with material. One song that seemed to catch everyone’s attention was a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “She’s On It.” The crowd got a show one would expect from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, with loud volume, plenty of feedback and Jon Spencer working the crowd like the master of rock he is.

Around the time the sun went down, the threats of rain and high winds subsided—and delightfully cooler temps made the crowd more comfortable.

When Chromeo took the Main stage at 7:40 p.m., a sizable crowd was waiting, even though Broken Bells were performing not too far away on the Outdoor stage. Chromeo did something daring: The band played two of their biggest songs first—“Night by Night” and “Hot Mess.” The smell of marijuana filled the air; glow sticks lit up; inflatable pool toys were held in the air; people were dancing all over the place. The energy was impressive, but could they manage to hold the crowd with their other material? The answer: a resounding yes. The band ended with “Fancy Footwork.”

The Replacements are on a reunion tour—and the members appeared to have some problems early in their set on the Outdoor stage. Before they took the stage, a couch was brought out and put in front of the drum riser. When the band members came out and started “Takin’ a Ride,” Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg didn’t seem as energetic as he had during other recent performances. The whole band was decked out in plaid suits and bowties, except for Westerberg.

After the third song, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong walked onto the stage in his own plaid suit. Westerberg asked, “What are you doing here, Billie Joe?” Armstrong replied: “Dreams really do come true!” After a few songs during which Westerberg planted himself on the sofa, sang along and played guitar, it became evident that Billie Joe was onstage to stay. Westerberg announced that he was having back trouble, and that The Replacements had heard that Armstrong had always wanted to play with them—so they hired him as an “extension” for the evening. Armstrong breathed life into the set and managed to draw a large crowd to the Main stage. During “Bastards of Young,” the three-ax attack was unbelievable.

A rather amusing note: The Los Angeles Times recently suggested that if a family is going to Coachella, the parents should go see Bryan Ferry. Well, when I peeked inside the Mojave tent toward the end of Ferry’s set, the crowd was mostly middle-age-to-older. Another amusing note: One of the balloon chains broke, sending all of the balloons into the night air.

As the evening’s end approached, and Main stage headliner OutKast was preparing to take the stage, The Cult began to perform in the Mojave, and dedicated their set to a 24-year-old woman who died while attending Coachella last week. Cult frontman Ian Astbury told the audience to take care of one another and stay hydrated, just before the band opened up with “Rain.”

As for Outkast’s set: If you burn through all your hit songs at the beginning of your headlining set, you may just lose some of your audience. The same annoying hologram tent was onstage as it was during Weekend 1, and the visuals were not good unless you were really up close.

Outkast opened up with a stellar performance of “Bombs Over Baghdad,” which probably should have been saved for the closing number. On the plus side, Big Boi and Andre 3000 looked a lot more energetic than they did last week. After performing “Gasoline Dreams,” they went right into “ATLiens.” Shortly thereafter came “Rosa Parks” and “Ms. Jackson.”

Many fans, after hearing all these songs so early, decided to skip out to avoid traffic; after all, there was not much to stay for at that point. It made for an odd ending to an otherwise fantastic Day 1.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery.

Published in Reviews

Anti-Flag, hailing from Pittsburgh, has been cranking out anti-establishment, left-wing-themed songs over well more than two decades. Before the band’s Coachella performance on Friday, April 18, drummer Pat Thetic sat down with the Independent to talk about the band’s history and political ethos.

Thetic said that while the band has matured, the ethics and mission remain the same.

“We’re still angry,” he said. “We’re just more aware of what we’re angry about now. When we were younger, we were just sort of angry about everything. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve traveled a lot; we’ve seen a lot of the world; and we know where the anger is going to achieve goals, and where the anger is just going to burn us up.”

The band’s connection to Pittsburgh has definitely inspired the band.

“We did come from Pittsburgh, which has a very strong labor history and a very strong leftist political action,” he said. “So we felt as though all punk rock should have a political message behind it. We felt if the music didn’t have a political vent to it, there was no point to it.”

One issue Pat Thetic holds close to his heart is animal-rights activism.

“I’ve been vegan for about 15 years,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that if you treat animals poorly, you’re going to treat people poorly. Also, for the band, the message has always been about letting people do what they think is best for themselves—staying out of their sexuality, staying out of what border they live across, staying out of what flag they fly over their head, and letting people be who they are, and cutting out the bullshit that’s on top of all of that.”

He then placed those statements in a Coachella Valley context.

“We’re close to the Mexican border here. On one side of the border, you’re considered one thing. If you’re born on the other side, you’re considered a completely different thing. That’s just such bullshit to me that luck of birth creates your whole existence. In 2014, that makes no sense at all.”

So how does a punk rock band such as Anti-Flag view the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, with $375 tickets, and high-priced food and water?

“That’s always been an issue,” he said. “What we’ve learned over the years is Coachella is going to go off, no matter what. If you don’t have a voice of dissent, then that’s a missed opportunity. No matter where you are, no matter what the environment is, there should always be a voice of dissent. It doesn’t always have to be Anti-Flag; it can be somebody else.

“Over the past two weeks, it’s been our chance to be that voice of dissent. Does it mean it’s going to change Coachella forever? No. If you have a kid that comes out, and he’s like, ‘Fuck! This is bullshit! I don’t want to pay $4 for water!’ I believe that equality is deeper than the Coachella experience. Then that kid comes to see Anti-Flag play; that kid is inspired to make the steps he needs to make things better in his life and hopefully others.”

Pat Thetic also couldn’t deny the fun he’s had during these two Coachella weekends.

“The set last week was great. We played the last set of the night, so that was awesome—it was nice, and the kids were great. I just watched Kate Nash perform, and we played with Kate Nash about five or six years ago in Australia. For me, I just like to walk around and see what’s going on. Sometimes, what I see is bullshit, but sometimes I see something interesting.

“No matter how high the price tag of the festival is, there’s always a group of fucked-up, weird kids, and those are the kids who make sense to me.”

Some of the biggest names in electronic dance music are coming to the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs during Coachella.

The hotel, in conjunction with Coachella promoter Goldenvoice, is hosting a series of pool parties during both Coachella weekends. The big names include Skrillex, Tiesto and David Guetta.

The Hard Rock Hotel recently celebrated its official grand opening, and this will be its first Coachella season. Vice president and general manager Hector Moreno said these LED Day Club parties are only the beginning of the great stuff to come.

“We have a great partnership with Goldenvoice and LED,” said Moreno via email. “I believe this will be the first of many epic events at the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs.”

Their events surrounding Coachella are already generating a lot of buzz.

“The response has been overwhelming (from) music-lovers all over the world who know our lineup. Our locals have shown amazing support to us, and we look forward to an amazing month.”

The doors open at 11 a.m. for each party.

On Thursday, April 10, Dirty South will play. The DJ from Australia is one of the world’s top DJs and should kick off this series of pool parties in style. Tickets are $40.

On Friday, April 11, A-Trak will be bringing his hip-hop style grooves. The Canadian turntablist has worked with Travis Barker, and he was the tour DJ for Kanye West in 2004. While he’s more known for his hip-hop collaborations, he has also done some nu-disco. Tickets are $40.

On Saturday, April 12, Disclosure will be returning with a DJ set after playing Coachella last year. The English duo has been on fire ever since releasing its debut album, Settle, last year. They two were also nominated for a Grammy. Tickets are $100.

On Sunday, April 13, David Guetta will be bringing his nightclub style of DJ’ing to the Hard Rock. He has turned in hit collaborations with people such as Sia, Nicki Manaj, Snoop Dogg and many others. If you have the time and/or funds to attend just one LED Day Club party, this is it, in our humble opinion. Tickets are $100.

Brace yourself on Thursday, April 17: Skrillex will be bringing his infamous hardcore dub-step sound to the Hard Rock. What will the neighbors think? Tickets are $60.

On Friday, April 18, Dutch DJ and Tiësto protégé Martin Garrix will be performing. His electro-house style should provide a nice vibe for the pool. If you haven’t heard his track “Animals,” be sure to check it out. Tickets are $100.

On Saturday, April 19, superstar DJ Tiësto will be performing. He’s known for his performance at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, as well as his spectacular live show. This should be one hell of a performance. Tickets are $125.

On Sunday, April 20, Showtek will close things out. The techno and electro-house duo will put on an insane show that should whip people into a dancing frenzy. Tickets are $40.

For tickets or more information, visit leddayclub.com.

Published in Previews

If you’re going to Coachella, and you’ve never been before, consider yourself warned: It can be a frustrating experience.

Coachella has so many bands, with numerous acts playing all at once, that it can be tough to choose where to go, and who to see. You’ll probably wind up missing some bands that you wanted to enjoy—and don’t be surprised if you don’t realize that one of your favorite artists is playing with a solo/side project you haven’t heard about until it’s too late.

Yes, it can be overwhelming—but we’re here to help, with this list of Coachella performers worth checking out.

Friday, April 11 and 18

Dum Dum Girls: Independent contributor Guillermo Prieto—a fine judge of music, if you ask me—is a big fan of this all-female foursome from Los Angeles. The Dum Dum Girls are on the up and up after getting noticed by indie critics and signing with Sub Pop Records. Now it appears they’re ready for the mainstream. Their single “Rimbaud Eyes,” from Too True, released back in January, is starting to pick up steam. If you like Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, you’ll love Dum Dum Girls.

Anti-Flag: If you’re pissed off at the establishment, and angry about having to stand out in the sun and buy bottled water—yet you’re cool with spending $375 to get into Coachella—you’ll love Anti-Flag. The Pittsburgh punk outfit is known for its sentimental punk tracks such as “Your Daddy Was a Rich Man,” “Your Daddy’s Fucking Dead,” “Captain Anarchy,” “Angry, Young and Poor,” “The Economy Is Suffering” and their best-known anthem, “Die for Your Government.” If you question what they’re being paid to play at Coachella, shut your dirty mouth! They’re being paid in anarchy!

Goat: This Swedish outfit put out World Music, one of my favorite records of 2012. The band wears freaky costumes, offers a hilarious back story about being from a cursed village destroyed by Christian crusaders, and turns in bizarre stage performances—so you probably shouldn’t miss them. Oh, and the music is great, too: A psychedelic-rock sound is combined with Afrobeat cuts. You’ll truly enjoy this band—I promise.

Chromeo: Chromeo is the one EDM act you should catch at Coachella—even if you don’t care for EDM. Dave 1 and P-Thugg will make sure you’re having a good time with their electrofunk anthems such as “Night by Night” and “Fancy Footwork.” These guys are a throwback to the cheesy disco/pop periods of the ’70s and ’80s—in a good way. It’s hard to guess where in the lineup and on which stage these guys are going to be, so figure it out and claim your spot early.

The Replacements: As far as the big names and reunions go, this is the best, in my book. This Minneapolis band (right) formed in 1979 and did great things before breaking up in 1991. They’re being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year for leaving their mark on college radio and the post-punk scene. If that’s not enough to convince you to see them, the song “Can’t Hardly Wait” inspired a film by the same name in 1998, about a high school graduation party during which Ethan Embry tries to give a letter to Jennifer Love Hewitt. (OK, maybe that isn’t very convincing. Just go see them, dammit.)

Saturday, April 12 and 19

Drowners: Make sure you arrive early on Saturday to catch Drowners. If you’re a fan of The Cure, The Smiths or any other ’80s Brit-Pop band, you’ll love them. They’re out to make the ’80s cool again! Since forming in 2011, Drowners have toured with the Arctic Monkeys, The Vaccines, and Foals, and have a new self-titled album to their credit.

Ty Segall: Ty Segall has come a long way since he started his solo recording career in 2008. With his psychedelic-fuzz-fused garage rock, you can expect a noisy and crazy performance that will make the eclectic-music-lover in you feel right at home.

Bombay Bicycle Club: Bombay Bicycle Club is pure fun. Their songs get easily stuck in your head, and you can’t help but smile when listening to many of their songs. If you’re having a bad day at Coachella, Bombay Bicycle Club might be all you need to turn that frown upside down.

Mogwai: This Scottish instrumental rock group will definitely offer a unique experience to those who have never heard of them. Their songs have no real vocal tracks—just some distorted lyrics here and there in the background on a few of their songs. Still, make no mistake: Mogwai is one of the best bands on Saturday’s bill.

Nas: Nas became one of the more-prolific of MCs of the ’90s after coming out of the Queensbridge housing projects in Queens. Prodigy of Mobb Deep mentioned Nas extensively in his autobiography, My Infamous Life; as the story goes, Prodigy and Nas once had a rap battle that ended in a draw. He’s one of NYC’s most-legendary rappers, so Nas will probably shine the brightest among Coachella’s rap/hip-hop performers. 

Sunday, April 13 and 20

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: This is a rather strange, if welcome, inclusion on the Coachella lineup. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is the musical jewel of New Orleans’ French Quarter, and has been going since 1963. They are the house band of New Orleans’ Preservation Hall, so if you want to experience something different at Coachella, they are the one act on Sunday you won’t want to miss. If you enjoy them, check out Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, who are performing later in the day.

J. Roddy Walston and the Business: Ever since Kings of Leon hit the mainstream, the whole Southern-rock-meets-blues thing has been ruined for me. However, J. Roddy Walston and the Business have restored some hope: There are some genuine blues influences in their music, with some lively Southern-rock touches here and there, too. These guys rock, and I’d imagine they’ll put on a great live show.

Frank Turner: While folk music already hooked up with punk rock due to work by artists such as Billy Bragg, Frank Turner is the folk-meets-punk artist of today. Unlike Bragg, Turner isn’t all that political; however, Turner did get some unwanted attention in his native United Kingdom after The Guardian ran an erroneous story about him being a right-winger; it reportedly led to death threats. In any case, Turner’s music is great, and he’ll offer an enjoyable live experience for those who wish they could have attended Coachella last year to see The Lumineers.

The 1975: The members of The 1975 (below) have been playing music together since 2002, and in 2012 (Enough years for ya?), they signed with an indie label called Dirty Hit. Since then, they’ve released a series of EPs, as well as a self-titled LP in September 2013. They’re a hit in their native UK—and are gaining attention here in the States, too. Their electro-pop sound is catchy, and they manage to include some unique themes in their lyrics. This is one band that will definitely be talked about at Coachella.

Published in Previews

Whatever you do, don’t call the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion—playing at Coachella on Friday, April 11 and 18—a “nostalgia” act.

Jon Spencer began his music career as the guitarist and vocalist for the Washington, D.C.-based psychedelic/punk band Pussy Galore. (Pussy Galore also included guitarist Cristina Martinez, who would go on to become Jon Spencer’s wife.) Pussy Galore dissolved in 1990, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion surfaced in 1991. Shortly thereafter, a 15-song bootleg titled A Reverse Willie Horton started making the rounds.

A Reverse Willie Horton—now considered by many to be the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s debut album—featured a cover with a reverse-negative picture of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas kissing his wife as President George H.W. Bush looked on, at Thomas’ swearing-in ceremony in 1991.

During a recent phone interview, Spencer said he had nothing to do with either the album cover or the album’s release.

“It’s a bootleg. I didn’t put it together,” Spencer said. “That record is the Blues Explosion’s first recording session that we did with (Mark) Kramer. I sent it to somebody, and it got bootlegged. I think the Reverse Willie Horton album came from Philadelphia.”

Throughout the ’90s, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion recorded and toured with big names—all while developing a sound that’s impossible to describe. Many people have labeled them as a blues band; others have used the term “nostalgic”—and neither is even close. While the sound includes elements of blues, it also contains bits of rock ’n’ roll and a punk influence.

The band’s proper, self-titled debut album, released in 1992, included some tracks from Reverse Willie Horton; few copies were produced and released. It was the release of Orange, in 1994, that led to critical acclaim, an appearance on MTV’s The John Stewart Show, and a tour with the Beastie Boys.

Orange also featured an appearance by Beck on the track “Flavor.” Beck was a rising star at the time, and he invited the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on a tour of Australia and New Zealand.

“That first experience was fine,” Spencer said about working with Beck. “But later on, Beck became not so good to work with. ‘Loser’ was just starting to happen, and Beck would talk about my old band Pussy Galore being an influence on him. Around that time, I was mixing Orange in the studio in Manhattan, and we had the song ‘Flavor,’ and I thought, ‘Well, what about asking Beck to rap on this song?’ I got his number from someone at Geffen, called him up, and he was a good sport and said he’d do it. I let him write for 20 minutes and called him back, and we recorded over the phone.”

After Orange, the band recorded A Ass Pocket of Whiskey with blues legend R.L. Burnside. The album was recorded during one afternoon in February in Holly Springs, Miss.

“The guys from Fat Possum Records rented a hunting lodge, and it was out in the country,” Spencer said. “We just spent four or five hours that afternoon. It was bitterly cold; there was an ice storm a couple of days beforehand, and snow and ice are very rare down there. It was in a house, and it wasn’t a proper recording studio. The Fat Possum people brought in some recording equipment, and there was no heat. There was a big fire going in the fireplace. The Blues Explosion and R.L. had been touring together, and we’d been playing songs together more and more during encores. Matthew Johnson at Fat Possum thought, ‘Why don’t you go in the studio with him and record?’ That’s what we did.”

In the fast-paced, DIY recording session, R.L. Burnside had no problems, Spencer said. “He was a farmer most of his life. He wasn’t a prima donna. It wasn’t like we were recording with Pavarotti or Elton John. (Burnside) was a guy who definitely had no problem with anything, really. He was tough in some ways, for sure.”

While Jon Spencer Blues Explosion songs and albums have made the charts in the United Kingdom, the band has not managed to do so here in the States; still, the band has enjoyed a great deal of success with indie- and underground-music lovers, and many critics have raved about the band’s live performances. The band also received some good music-video exposure back in MTV’s heyday.

Bands such as The White Stripes, The Black Keys and others have listed the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as an influence.

“A lot of these bands that people will mention to me, I don’t think they sound close,” Spencer said. “We’ve always been more of a punk band and quite more experimental. We’re not very traditional. We are a rock ’n’ roll band, but we’re not recycling the early-’70s sounds and styles.”

Since 1991, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion lineup has remained consistent, with Judah Bauer (lead guitar) and Russell Simins (drums) remaining in the fold. The band’s most-recent release, Meat+Bone, was well-received by critics.

As for playing at Coachella, Spencer was brutally honest in his assessment.

“I think the festivals we have in the States are modeled after the big European festivals,” Spencer said. “It’s nice to see a lot of festivals here in the States, and we’re very happy to be asked to play Coachella.”

Published in Previews